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Going global: top tips for building your own creative website

With career opportunities increasingly scarce and the culture of unpaid internships still thriving, emerging artists and arts professionals could be forgiven for doing away with bespoke cover letters, wordy proposals and CVs. Instead, thousands of creatives are opting for alternative solutions to jobseeking, many harnessing the power of the internet as the cheapest fuel to move forward.

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This shouldn’t come as a surprise – it’s never been easier to build a customised website and the cultural sector is spoiled for digital training. It’s not hard to understand how so many people find themselves thinking what a great idea it would be to buy their own little piece of webspace.

It’s true the internet can be a great place to platform your work and source new clients. But while building a website to advertise your creative flair may be as easy as 1, 2, 3, the vast majority of people seldom consider what happens next. All too often people expect to put their work online and – hey presto! – Mr Moneybags will be offering you megabucks for your portfolio of vintage photographs. Sadly, it’s not that easy.

Take a good look at yourself and your content
The number one rule of creating a successful website is that your content has to be both innovative and unique. Ask yourself why people would want to visit your site? Without this integral question, your website is already doomed. There are nearly 55,000,000 WordPress websites alone, with roughly 100,000 new blogs being created every day.

The competition is fierce – so how can you avoid your site merging into the murky backdrop of mediocrity? Remember too that whatever you publish on the web can be seen by anyone and everyone, from your grandmother to high-flying editors you might one day be begging for a job.

First and foremost, you have to decide if your work is ready to go global: is it original? Are you confident that you could become the next ‘big thing’ in your industry? How would you feel if an interviewer or a buyer found your work in five years’ time, when you’ll have hopefully refined your craft to near perfection? If these questions don’t faze you, fantastic – your well on your way – but you’re by no means ready to press the publish button.

Swot up on the basics
Having a great website featuring strong work is one thing but a lot of people don’t realise that successful websites are the result of innumerable hours of research. When I founded The Gay Stage, I didn’t have the first clue about search engine optimisation (SEO) or html tags. Instead, I spent most of my spare time swotting up on all the boring essentials to building, marketing and sustaining a successful website. I’ve been doing it for a year now and I still haven’t stopped – even after countless emails, hundreds of mistakes and new contributors, my own website is still only half way there, and maybe not even that.

Until recently, The Gay Stage was 100% a labour of love. That means no profit. Not a penny. Nada. Thankfully all that hard work has started to pay off as we’re finally in a position to attract advertisers and people are getting in touch about freelance opportunities for myself and our other contributors. The downside is that we now need to consider finance and taxes – and so the learning curve continues.

I don’t for a minute want to portray website creation as a pointless or thankless task. Personally, I have enjoyed the hard work and I’ll certainly keep hold of the web skills I’ve now picked up, which means I’ve broadened my career opportunities in the process.

The point I’m making is this: being able to build a website isn’t what matters; most creatives can have a good stab at it. As with every other route to success, finding your place on the internet requires hard work, commitment and a professional outlook – as soon as your website goes live, it essentially becomes a business.

There is no such thing as a magic wand in this business, and the sooner creatives fully understand what a decent website requires, the sooner those artists can earn a decent crust. If you’re still up for the ride then clearly you love a challenge and if that’s the case you’ll likely be rewarded for your efforts, even if the cash-cow doesn’t arrive tomorrow.

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